The transverse abdominis (TVA) muscle is the deepest of the four muscle groups that make the abdominals. These deep abs extend downward from your lower ribs toward your pelvis and around the sides toward your spine. It is a large muscle and because of the way it girdles the sternum and the pelvis together, it becomes very important for stability, posture, and any functional movement. Sitting at your desk for prolonged periods does nothing to activate your TVA and can contribute to lower back pain. Strengthening the TVA is essential as this muscle is used in almost every exercise starting from squats and lunges to overhead presses and planks.
Technique: Abdominal Hollowing
This relatively simple move has been shown to effectively recruit the TVA muscles in whichever abdominal exercise you undertake. Start by lying down on your back and drawing in your abdomen below your navel. Don’t move your back, pelvis or upper abdomen but continue breathing. You can use the same hollowing technique to activate your TVA muscles when you are performing the following ab exercises.
The go-to ab workout, the plank is ideal for your TVA but only when you are hollowing your abdomen. Begin on your stomach and after hollowing your abdomen, lift your body up onto your elbows and toes. Keep your back and buttocks aligned. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds and slowly return to the starting position.
2. Glute Bridge
This exercise not only works on your glutes but is also good for your abs. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent. Hollow your abdomen and lift your buttocks off the ground. Maintain a continuous breathing pattern throughout the exercise. Keep your glutes raised for 1-2 seconds and slowly lower your body back to the ground.
3. Quadruped Lifts
Also known as the bird dog, this exercise helps you to stretch out your ab muscles. Start by getting down on all fours. After hollowing the abdomen, slowly lift one arm and raise the opposite leg in the air. Remember to keep your back and pelvis aligned throughout each rep. Hold this position for 1-2 seconds and return to starting position. Repeat the same for the alternate leg and arm.
Pro Tip: Do a set of crunches after every set of exercises. Remember to follow the abdominal hollowing technique to work on your TVA muscles. Perform two to four sets of 15 to 20 repetitions of each exercise, two to three times in a week.